Cassie has been making her parents' lives miserable. It all started when they had the sheer audacity - on her 17th birthday, no less - to announce that they were leaving Denver, Colorado and moving to some god-forsaken-town in California called Blackwater Bay. Cassie's parents have been making HER life miserable. First, there was the announcement that she'd be saying good-be to the only place she'd ever known - friends, boyfriend, the right clique at school - and moving to that . . . that . . .place, and then they'd insisted on playing this horrible music in the car by bands from THEIR generation and to make matters worse, she'd been car-sick for a good part of the trip. They weren't even "Mom" and "Dad" any more. They were George and Sarah. Basically, Cassie was exercising her craft finely honed to perfection in High School as she pushed and climbed her way into the popular groups of popular people - of being a B-I-T-C-H.
That last bit is something that she'd kinda like to change. She's really not that kind of person and she does have this sense of foreboding that she'll be at the bottom of the pecking order in Blackwater Bay. What goes around comes around and not only is she now the lowest of the low but she has to suffer the attentions of the Jackson High version of herself in Denver. Life is hell and it appears that she is finally getting her comeuppance. Her teachers are either odd-balls or ignore her completely. She's the object of much pointing and whispering, she doesn't feel the connection she once had with her old friends in Denver - there is little doubt that both sides will drift apart, sooner rather than later - and the final blow comes when she Skype's her boyfriend for the first time from California. He summarily dumps her in record time.
There is a bit of light in this Stygian darkness, however. Cassie has made a couple of friends at school. Nerds. The kind of people she regularly trod upon back in Denver. And there's another thing. Cassie loves the ocean. She felt its pull the moment she laid eyes on it. Her first impulse is to go swimming and, frankly, it's hard to keep her out of the water. Perhaps Blackwater Bay isn't so bad after all.
Cassie's last name is Murdock; a braw Scots name from upper Strathspey in the central highlands. If Cassie were Scottish, she'd be finding some way to work the Macpherson tartan into her wardrobe. The trouble is, Cassie's not Scottish. She's adopted. Orphaned at birth, she has no idea of where she came from or who she was. All she knows is that her birth mother's name was Helen. And then, . . . well . . .there's this other thing. Cassie is not human. She's a mermaid; a fact that she would have never know if she'd stayed in Denver all of her life. Cassie discovered that she had a tail after swimming in the sea a few times and her reaction progressed from shock, horror, grudging acceptance to "this mermaid stuff ain't so bad after all". The only drawback is that discovering that you're a mermaid is definitely not a subject for a mother-daughter talk.
Cassie's time underwater turns up two things:
1. A carved stone tablet with some sort of foreign writing on it.
2. Two other mermaids. She's not quite so alone under water now.
Cassie is clever enough to take a photo of the tablet, have it developed and then take it to her history teacher for translation. The writing tells an old legend of Poseidon's dalliance with a sea-nymph which resulted in the birth of fraternal twins; one a kind and virtuous boy and the other a cruel and selfish girl. Thus began a never-ending struggle between their descendants. The boy loved a human woman and their children were known as Merpeople. The girl wanted nothing to do with humans and contrived a way to conceive a child with her brother. Her children were "pure bloods" better known as Sirens.
The two mermaids are more problematic. Both have suffered because of the sirens and Cassie has no idea if she's a "pure blood" or not. She hopes that she isn't but will her two mer-friends hate her for that if she is. Cassie only wants to make it through high school and enjoy her new freedom in the sea.
The juxtaposition of the two warring factions reflects the duality of how we view the idea of mermaids. Benevolent creatures or seductresses? Agents of good or evil embodied? Cassie will learn her fate as the story progresses. Will she be able to live with the outcome? In some respects, this duality is the encapsulation of what Cassie has experienced in High School. She tried hard to become one of the school "pure bloods" in Denver. In Blackbay, that is something she desperately does not want to be. The difference is that the members of the "popular" crowd are not - for the most part - evil. Will that hold true in Cassie's new school?
In addition to exploring the duality of mermaids, The Ocean's Call is all about power. The power that people - and merfolk - have over one another. It is the desire to control. The desire to dominate.
Ms Neiderhut has done a credible job of creating Cassie's world and sending the characters on their way through the plot. A second book in this series - The Siren's Apprentice - is scheduled for release in 2013 so the reader will have a chance to further explore the ideas and environment with which Ms Neiderhut has invested the story.
One cannot have mermaids without at least a little bit of magic but in many cases, authors will ladle it on to support a somewhat deficient story line. The Ocean's Call seems to have about the right amount to make the book interesting and attractive to its target audience.
On the surface, the coming of age - Hey whaddaya know, I'm a mer maid/man - theme has been done before by other authors with varying degrees of success. By adding the concepts of duality and power/control, Elisabeth Niederhut has caused <em>The Ocean's Call</em> to plough new ground as well as keep the reader guessing as to what will happen next to Cassie, who is totally unprepared for any and all of what befalls her. In the final analysis, The Ocean's Call is a well written, YA-friendly paranormal adventure which this reviewer believes may well become a favourite with its target audience.